The government and the NHS need to do more to combat loneliness in the elderly, according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP) and the British Geriatrics Society (BGS).
Loneliness can be particularly prevalent among older people, especially around Christmas.
The RCP and BGS have said in a joint statement that loneliness can contribute to a large number of physical and mental conditions.
Around 1.4m elderly English people are deemed to experience loneliness, perhaps due to a lost partner or friends.
However, health conditions can also exacerbate loneliness. For example, loss of mobility, frailty, dementia, chronic pain and incontinence can all limit independence. Therefore loneliness and associated health conditions can prove something of a vicious cycle.
Because of this, the two groups are demanding action from the government and the NHS.
Their four suggestions are to: improve treatment for independence-limiting conditions; have better identification methods for mental health conditions and dementia; improve communication between different healthcare bodies; and also look after carers themselves who may put patients’ wellbeing before their own.
President of the British Geriatrics Society, Professor Tahir Masud, said: “Feelings of loneliness should not be inevitable part of growing old, especially at Christmas. There is much that all of society – from government right through to community groups and individuals – can do to better support older people.
“This position statement charts the role that healthcare professionals can continue to play in identifying older people experiencing loneliness and ensuring that they are able to access the appropriate support and services to help them.
“While we may remain proud that people are living longer lives, this alone is not sufficient. We must also ensure that they have a good quality of life and that they are enabled to live fulfilling and happy lives into their later years.”